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Natural Resources Report 
Number 14 

U.S. Department of the Interior 
National Park Service 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2013 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 


John Weaver 

Department of Wildlife Science 

Utah State University , Logan 


Environmental Research Institute 

Moose, Wyoming 

Natural Resources Report Number 14 • 1978 

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, D.C. 20402 

Stock No. 024-005-007 12-1 


Historical records and intensive field surveys 1975-77 
provided information on the population history, ecology, and 
current status of wolves (Canis lupus) in Yellowstone National 
Park and vicinity. Wolves occurred in unknown but seemingly 
low densities during the latter 1800s in several areas of 
Yellowstone where they were controlled periodically until 1926. 
Populations apparently began increasing about 1912, primarily 
in the northeast, and may have reached nonequilibrium levels 
of 30-40 animals (postwhelping) . Intensive control 1914-26 
removed at least 136 wolves, including about 80 pups. During 
this period Yellowstone wolves characteristically lived in 
packs of 3-16 members, some of which followed the ungulates 
in their seasonal migrations. Litters averaging 7.8 were born 
in late March and April, primarily in the north central sector 
of the park. Limited evidence suggests that elk (Cervus elaphus) 
were important food for wolves during all seasons. Wolves either 
survived the control era or moved in shortly thereafter for 
singles, pairs, and a pack of four were reported the following 
decade. Resident wolf packs, however, were eliminated from 
Yellowstone National Park by the 1940s. Large canids have 
been sighted intermittently to the present, but their identity 
has not been established. Singles and pairs comprised 89% of 
116 "probable" reports over the past 50 years. Speculation 
about factors limiting the Yellowstone wolf population considers 
its relative geographic isolation from viable wolf populations 
and possible genetic problems (including wolf-coyote hybridiza- 
tion) associated with prolonged minimal population status. A 
transplant of wolves from British Columbia or Alberta, or perhaps 
Minnesota, is recommended to restore a viable population of 
this native predator to Yellowstone National Park. 

Cover drawing by Carol Snow 

-4s the Nation 's principal conservation agency, the Department 
of the Interior has responsibility for most of our nationally 
owned public lands and natural resources. This includes 
fostering the wisest use of our land and water resources, 
protecting our fish and wildlife, preserving the environmental 
and cultural values of our national parks and historical 
places, and providing for the enjoyment of life through out- 
door recreation. The Department assesses our energy and 
mineral resources and works to assure that their development 
is in the best interests of all our people. The Department 
also has a major responsibility for American Indian reserva- 
tion communities and for people who live in Island Territories 
under U.S. administration. 



Wolves historically occupied a wide range 
of habitats throughout much of North America 
north of the 20th parallel in southern 
Mexico (Goldman 1944), but their geographi- 
cal range in the contiguous United States 
today has been reduced by nearly 99% (Mech 
1971). The Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf 
(NRMIV) (C. I. ivremotus) , one of 23 sub- 
species recognized by Goldman, once roamed 
the backbone of the continent from southern 
Idaho and Wyoming to southeastern British 
Columbia and southern Alberta (Fig. 1). 
Wolves throughout this area, including 
Yellowstone National Park, were reduced 
drastically by the 1930s by government and 
private control. In 1973 the Secretary of 
the Interior placed the NRMW on the 
Endangered Species List. 

The primary purpose of administration of 
natural areas by the National Park Service 
is to preserve natural environments and 
native plant and animal life while provid- 
ing for enjoyment by visitors in ways which 
maintain natural conditions (USDI National 
Park Service 1968) . Mission-oriented re- 
search involves determining the complete- 
ness of park ecosystems and developing 
management procedures to prevent or compen- 
sate for departures caused by human actions 

(Cole 1969a) . Lack of ecological complete- 
ness, for example, might stem from unnatu- 
ral reduction or elimination of predator 

In recent years personnel and visitors 
in Yellowstone National Park have reported 
sightings of large canids (Cole 1971) . No 
intensive field research, however, had been 
conducted specifically on wolves there. 
Mech (1971) stated: 

For the wolves reported from Yellow- 
stone Park, an immediate and concerted 
program is necessary. Intensive 
efforts should be made to determine 
the extent of populations . . . 
both in terms of numbers and area 
occupied. Special attention should 
be given to determine whether breed- 
ing and successful reproduction are 
taking place. 

In August 1975, I was contracted as an 
independent research biologist by the 
National Park Service to survey the status 
of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. 
Objectives of the study were to compile the 
historical information on wolves in Yellow- 
stone and to determine their present dis- 
tribution, abundance, and reproductive 

1 . Cams lupus tundrarum 

2. C. I. fambasileus 

3. C. I. alecs 

4. C /. occidentalis 

5. C. I. hudsonicus 

6. C. I. arctos 

7. C. I. orion 

8. C. I. labradorius 

9. C. I. beothucus 

10. C. I. lycaon 

11. C. I. nubilus 

12. C. I. irrcmotus 

13. C.l. 

14. C. /. 

15. C. I. 
C. I. 
C. I. 
C. I. 
C. I. 
C. I. 
C. I. 
C. I. 


23. C. /. 


FIGURE 1. North American distribution of subspecies of Canis lupus (from Goldman 194i+). 
2 National Park Service 


A 19,151 km 2 (7,481 mile 2 ) area, encom- 
passing Yellowstone National Park and a 16- 
24 km strip around its perimeter in north- 
western Wyoming and adjacent parts of 
Montana and Idaho (Fig. 2), was selected 
for the wolf survey. Much of the area is 
designated or de facto wilderness, and de- 
velopments such as roads, buildings, and 
campgrounds occupy less than 1% of the 

Quaternary volcanic deposits which have 
undergone three glaciations cover most of 
the area (Keefer 1972) . Elevations range 
from about 1,500 m to over 3,400 m, but 
forested rhyolite plateaus at 2,100-2,600 
m are extensive. 

Winters are usually long and cold while 
summers are short and cool (Dirks 1976; 
Houston 1976) . Most of the annual precip- 
itation of 34.5-96.5 cm falls as snow. In 
general, temperatures are lower and precip- 
itation higher in the central and southern 
parts of the area. 

About 79°s of the terrestrial area of 
Yellowstone is forested, with lodgepole 
pine (64°o) and subalpine fir-Engelmann 
spruce (6%) predominating. Despain (1973) 
and Houston (1976) have described the vege- 

Distribution and estimated abundance of 
bison {Bison bison) (Meagher 1973) , elk 
(Cole 1969b; Craighead et al. 1972; Houston 
1974), moose {Aloes aloes'), mule deer 
{Odocoileus hemionus) , pronghorn antelope 
{Antilooapra americana) , and bighorn sheep 
{Ovis canadensis) (Barmore in prep.) have 
been reported (Table 1) Ecology of the 
cyote {Canis latrans) (Murie 1940) and 
grizzly bear {Ursus arotos) (Craighead et 
al. 1974; Mealey 1975; Cole 1976; Knight 
et al . 1977) has been presented. Houston 

(1973) commented upon the status of mountain 
lions {Felis concolor) and wolverines {Gulo 
gulo) in the park. 


Information on the history and ecology 
of wolves in Yellowstone National Park up 
to the 1930s was obtained from journals, 
Army scout diaries, Army station records 
(extracted by M. Meagher) , and from monthly 
and annual reports of the superintendent, 
in the Yellowstone National Park Research- 
Reference Library. 

Population trends since that time to the 
present were assessed from nearly 500 re- 
ports of wolf-like animals and/or sign. 
These reports included replies to a ques- 
tionnaire mailed to 89 big-game outfitters 
operating on the Gallatin, Shoshone, and 
Teton National Forests adjacent to the park. 
A point system was devised for evaluating 
and categorizing the observations (Table 2) . 
The principal criteria included experience 
and reliability of the observer, details of 
the observation, and description of the 
animal and/or sign which would distinguish 
it in external appearance from other canids. 
Reports were categorized as "probable" or 
"possible," depending upon the number of 
points received. A "positive" category 
was reserved for instances where an animal 
was trapped or killed and verified as a 

This point system was designed to be 
conservative. For example, an observation 
of a large gray canid at short range by a 
person familiar with Western coyotes re- 
ceived a "possible" evaluation. Reports 
citing a distinctive color, howl, or track 
rated "probable" if the observer was 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 

FIGURE 2. Location of the Yellowstone wolf study area. Broken lines arbitrarily distin- 
guish raphical section ■.. ilitate discussion of reported wolf observations, 
ircles represenl ungulate baits and/or canid scent and time-lapse cameras, 

Nai ional F.irk Service 

TABLE 1. Seasonal population estimates of ungulates in 
Yellowstone National Park; 1977. 





Mule deer 



Bighorn sheep 

Pronghorn antelope 

2,000- 4,000 


1,100- 1,200 




500- 2,000 


1,100- 1,200 



qualified. All reports were classified 
independently of any others. 

This system remains subjective, however, 
and with such sources, all reports are 
questionable to a degree. Some observa- 
tions, especially those from the 1930s and 
1940s, may well have been of wolves but 
were classified "possible" for lack of de- 
tails. Some "probable" sightings may have 
been of large coyotes. Nonetheless, the 
point system provides consistency for 
evaluating these observations. All reports 
were coded on computer-compatible sheets 
and filed at park headquarters. 

I spent 12 months in the field, August- 
October 1975 and August 1976-April 1977, 
searching intensively for wolves and/or 
sign. Since the wolves' reproductive suc- 
cess was an important question, I designed 
the field study to cover periods of breed- 
ing, denning, and rendezvous activity. My 
field assistants and I traveled approxi- 
mately 2,700 km on foot, skis, and snow- 
shoes while inspecting government-maintained 
trails, game trails, ridges, and stream 
courses for wolves, tracks, and scats. 

Tape-recorded and human- imitated wolf 
howls were broadcast approximately 1,400 
times both day and night from elevated 

spots (Joslin 1967). A parabolic microphone 
was available for recording any responses. 

Baits of road-killed ungulates and canid 
scent were placed at seven locations in and 
near the park (Fig. 2) , February -March 1977, 
and were monitored with time-lapse movie 
cameras (Diem et al. 1973). Some cameras 
were preset to expose a single-frame pic- 
ture at 1.5-minute intervals; others, at 
8 -minute intervals. 

Thirty hours in flight time were spent 
searching specifically for wolves and/or 
sign. In addition, approximately 1,800 
hours have been logged by other park re- 
search biologists since 1964 during wild- 
life distribution and censusing flights. 

Most of the intensive ground search con- 
centrated on the northeast and southeast 
portions of the study area (Fig. 2), where- 
as flights were made over most of the park. 


The wolves of Yellowstone- -C. I. 
irremotus- -probably intergraded with colum- 
bianus to the north, nubilus to the east, 
and youngi to the south (Goldman 1944) . 
Specimens from northwestern Wyoming were 
considered by Goldman to be "somewhat 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 

TABLE 2. Criteria and point system for categorizing wolf 
observations . d 




experience with Western coyotes 
experience with wolves 


<100 m 

10C-400 m 

>400 m 
length of observation time 

>10 seconds 
optical aid such as binoculars 

Description of animal and/or sign 

body description 

large body size 

large and blocky head, short ears, 
and relatively short muzzle 

relatively large, long legs 

solid white or black 

distinctively different from coyote 


>10 cm (4.0 in) long including 

toenails (must include evidence 
to rule out domestic dog) 






a Reports scoring >16 points qualified as "probable"; 
those <16 points, "possible." See text for discussion 

of system. 

intermediate" between irremotus and youngi. 

Goldman (1944:404) pointed out that 
wolves ". . . are all very similar in the 
more essentia] a ures and are believed to 
intcrgrade through the vast range of the 
species on the North American mainland " 

Indeed, taxonomists today, with multivari- 
ate statistical techniques, might reduce 
the number of wolf subspecies or perhaps 
el iniinatc them altogether {see Nowak 1973; 
Jolicoeur 1975; Skecl and Carbyn 1977). 
Although there arc reasons to question the 

National Park Service 

validity of the subspecific groupings, I 
use Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf (NRMW) for 
convenient reference to this geographical 
population. Wolf taxonomy and its implica- 
tions for management will be discussed 

The NRMW is medium- to large-sized for 
the species. An adult male from Red Lodge, 
Montana, measured 1,870 mm (61.4 inches) 
total length, while two adult females from 
Soda Springs, Idaho, measured 1,929 and 
2,046 mm (Goldman 1944) . An adult male 
taken in Montana in 1968 weighed 42 kg (92 
lb) (Gary Day pers. coram.). For wolves in 
Yellowstone, Bailey (1930) stated: "The 
male is consistently larger than the female, 
weighing well over a hundred pounds." 

Goldman (1944) described the winter 
pelage of the NRMW: 

Upper parts from nape to rump usually 
near "light buff" or varying shades 
of gray, sparingly overlaid with 
black, becoming nearly white on 
sides and limbs; short pelage on top 
of head light buffy white, the hairs 
tipped with black; ears and upper 
surface of muzzle light buffy; under 
parts in general more or less soiled 
white; tail above light buffy, thinly 
and inconspicuously overlaid with 
black, light buffy below to tip, 
which is a mixture of buff and black 
all around. Individuals in the black 
phase appear to be rare. 

Of 136 wolves killed in the park, three 
were black and one was white (Fig. 3); two 
others observed were black. All others 
were gray. It seems reasonable that most 
black or white wolves, due to their con- 
spicuousness, would be reported. Neither 
the reported kills nor the recorded obser- 

vations substantiate Skinner's (1927) claim 
that up to 401 of Yellowstone wolves were 

Prior to 1914 

Wolves were members of Yellowstone's 
native fauna. Although few observations 
were recorded during the 1800s (Appendix 
I), this could reflect either an actual low 
density of wolves or simply a lack of rec- 
ords. Some early writers used "wolf" in 
reference to both true wolves and coyotes 
("small prairie wolf" or "medicine wolf) 
{see Haines 1955:129), but reports from 
about 1880 on usually distinguished the two 
species. Five accounts of gray wolves were 
recorded 1869-80. 

At least as early as 1877, however, 
ungulate carcasses in the park were poisoned 
with strychnine by free-lance "wolfers" for 
"wolf or wolverine bait" (Supt. Annual 
Rept. 1877). By 1880, Superintendent 
Norris stated in his annual report that 
". . . the value of their [wolves and 
coyotes] hides and their easy slaughter 
with strychnine-poisoned carcasses have 
nearly led to their extermination." 
Sightings of single wolves, pairs, and 
groups of three and six were recorded 1881- 
1908, primarily in the Geyser Basins (C) , 
Hayden Valley (C) , and Lamar (NE) (Fig. 4). 

The Yellowstone wolf population appar- 
ently began to increase about 1912, at 
least in the northern sector. In a letter 
dated 29 July, 1912, Col. L. M. Brett 
remarked that ". . . several were killed 
on the Upper Gallatin River but a few miles 
outside [the park] . . . last spring" 
(Appendix I) . Skinner (1927) observed four 
wolves in Lamar Valley that same year and 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 

s ' 

*?> A 






FIGURE 3. Three wolves killed near Hellroaring Creek (NE) and the den in a rock cave from 
which six pups were removed, Yellowstone National Park, April 1916 {from Bailey 1916). 

FIGURE 4. Location of wolf observations in Yellowstone National Park prior to 1914. Open 
circles represent sightings of singles or pairs; shaded circles, three or more animals 

believed wolves "were coming in faster." 
Randall (1966) saw a pack of nine along the 
Yellowstone River near Hellroaring in 
spring, 1913. 


By 1914, wolves had increased noticeably 
in northeast Yellowstone Park (Supt. Annual 
Rept. 1914). They were considered, though, 
"a decided menace to the herds of elk, deer, 
mountain sheep, and antelope" (Supt. Annual 
Rept. 1915) and concerted efforts to "exter- 
minate" (Supt. Monthly Rept. February 1919) 
wolves were mounted. Opposition to this 
policy was ignored as suggested by the 

following (Supt. Monthly Rept. May 1922): 
"It is evident that the work of controlling 
these animals must be vigorously prosecuted 
by the most effective means available 
whether or not this meets with the approval 
of certain game conservationists." 

During 1914-26 a minimum of 136 wolves- - 
including about 80 pups (59%) --were removed 
from dens, trapped, shot, and probably 
poisoned within the park (Table 3) . This 
total is slightly higher than Skinner's 
(1927) and Murie's (1940) due to a more 
detailed examination of historical sources. 
In each of 3 years (1918, 1920, 1922), the 
toll exceeded 24 animals (mostly pups) . In 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 

FIGURE 5. Wolf pups trapped at bison carcass near Soda Butte (NE), Yellowstone Park, 
October 1926. {Photo by Scott Riley.) 

FIGURE 6. Location of observations and numbers of wolves killed (X) in Yellowstone Park 
and vicinity, 1914-26. Open circles represent sightings of singles or pairs; shaded 

circles, three or more animals together. 
10 National Park Service 

TABLE 3. Wolf mortality in Yellowstone National Park, 1914-26. 



















14 a 

























Monthly Repts. 

Annual Rept. 
























Report did not distinguish between adults and pups. Nineteen 
wolves were killed in April and I have assumed that, as for the 
same month in other years, most of these were pups. 

One den with unreported number of pups was closed up. 

'Combined for 1921 and 1922. 

Monthly reports were more detailed and were considered to be 
the best source. 

1918, 21 adult wolves were killed. The 
annual kill fluctuated throughout this 
period, indicating either real changes in 
wolf numbers or varying effort by the con- 
trol personnel, or both. Certain trends, 
however, appear evident. 

Between 1914 and 1923, 15 (56° ) of 27 
reports involved three or more wolves to- 
gether (Appendix II) . Four occupied and 
distinct dens found in 1916 and 1920 sug- 
gest at least four different reproductive 
units those years. The last den destroyed 
by park personnel was in 1923 near Tower 
Falls (NE) . In the next 3 years, only 3 

(21%) of 14 reports mentioned more than two 
wolves together. Two pups were trapped near 
Soda Butte (NE) in October 1926 (Fig. 5). 
All the reported killing of wolves oc- 
curred in the northeast section from near 
Mammoth east to Soda Butte and south to 
Pelican Valley (Fig. 6), as did many obser- 
vations. In addition, one or two wolves 
were sighted occasionally in the southeast 
section. Hayden Valley and the Geyser 
Basins, areas occupied by wolves around the 
turn of the century, furnished but one 
record of a single animal during 1914-26. 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 

1 1 

FIGURE 7a. Locations of canid observations in Yellowstone Park and vicinity, 1927-36. 
Open circles represent sightings of singles or pairs; shaded circles, three or more 
animals together. 


The population history of wolf-like 
canids in Yellowstone 1927-66 relies upon 
reports which have been classified 
"probable" and Superintendent Monthly 
Reports up to 1936. Within the recognized 
subjective nature of the data, this repre- 
sents my best interpretation of wolf popu- 
lation trends during those years. To 
facilitate discussion, I grouped reports 
into 10 -year periods. 

1927-36. In the decade following intense 
persecution of wolves in the park, 14 
observations of 29 large canids were 
tallied. Seven reports involving 17 ani- 
mals were classified "probable" (Fig. 7a) 
(see Appendix III). A pack of four was 
observed up Tower Creek (ME) in 1934 

(Arnold 1937) , but sightings of singles 
or pairs accounted for five of seven 

1937-46. There were 16 reports of 18 large 
canids for this period; 8 of these invol- 
ving 10 animals were rated "probable" 
(Fig. 7b). Three wolves were seen in 1937 
on lower Specimen Ridge, a single on Soda 
Butte Creek in 1958, and another single 
just north of the park in 1942 (all in NE) . 
A wolf was observed up Mol Heron Creek (NW) 
in 1942 and another up the Gallatin River 
the following year. In 1944, single wolves 
were reported at Heart fake (SE) , Elk Park 
(NW) , and Crevice (NE) . Sightings of 
singles or pairs comprised seven of eight 


National Park Service 

FIGURE 7b. Locations of canid observations in Yellowstone Park and vicinity, 1937-46. 
Open circles represent sightings of singles or pairs; shaded circles, three or more 
animals together . 

1947-56. Twenty-six reports of 37 canids 
were received; six involving 10 animals 
were classified "probable" (Fig. 7c). Two 
wolves were observed at Soda Butte in 1947, 
one near Lost Creek in 1949, and three at 
Amethyst Creek in 1952 (all in NE) . A 
single, large canid was seen just south of 
the park in 1950. Along the Madison River, 
a pair of wolves was seen in 1952 and a 
single, the following year. Five of these 
six "probable" reports mentioned only sin- 
gles or pairs. 

1957-66. Thirty-two observations of 42 
canids were recorded. Fourteen reports 
involving 21 animals received a "probable" 
rating (Fig. 7d) . Single wolves were 
observed in the northeast in 1957, 1958, 
1963, and 1965. A large adult canid with 

three pups was reported there in 1963. 
Singles were seen near Swan Lake (NW) in 
1958 and 1965 and a pack of three on the 
Gallatin River in 1966. One of two wolves 
observed up Mol Heron in 1963 was shot but 
not recovered. In 1960 one wolf was re- 
ported at Grouse Creek (SE) south of 
Yellowstone Lake and another, along the 
east boundary near Sunlight Basin (NE) . A 
single wolf was seen near Porcupine Hills 
(C) in 1963. Sightings of singles and pairs 
constituted 12 of 14 reports. 

Summary. Wolf- like canids either survived 
the 1914-26 control era in Yellowstone 
National Park or moved in shortly there- 
after. Murie (1940) believed that "the 
last wolves were eliminated in the twenties 
although a few have been reported in recent 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 


FIGURE 7c. Locations of canid observations in Yellowstone Park and vicinity, 1947-56, 
Open circles represent sightings of singles or pairs; shaded circles, three or more 
animals together. 

FIGURE 7d. Locations of canid observations in Yellowstone Park and vicinity, 1957-66. 
Open circles represent sightings of singles or pairs; shaded circles, three or more 
animals together. 


National Park Service 

FIGURE 8. Locations of canid observations in Yellowstone Park and vicinity, 1967-April 
1977. Open circles represent sightings of singles or pairs; shaded circles, three or 
more animals together. 

years." Two packs of three to four and 
five wolves may still have been present in 
the mid- 1930s, but records do not indicate 
they persisted. During the next 30 years, 
observations of wolf- like canids- -mostly 
singles and pairs- -were reported sporadi- 
cally from the northwest and northeast sec- 
tions of the study area. 

1967-April 1977 

During the past decade, 401 reports of 
531 canids have been received; 81 involving 
109 animals were classified "probable" 
(Fig. 8). The increase in reports during 
this period was due partly to a system 
established in 1968 for recording sightings 

of wolves (Cole 1971) and to greater aware- 
ness of their possible occurrence in the 

About 90% of the "probable" observations 
came from four areas (Fig. 8). Each year 
throughout this period, one or two wolf- 
like canids have been seen in the northeast. 
In Hayden Valley (C) , a single wolf was 
observed in 1969 and 1971. A wolf reported- 
ly was shot in Sunlight Basin east of the 
park in January 1968, but no remains were 
found the following summer. Sightings of 
a large canid in that area were recorded in 
1968, 1969, 1971, and 1975. In the north- 
west section of Yellowstone, one to five 
wolves were seen in 1968-70, a pair in 1971, 
and singles in 1972 and 1974. None has 
been reported from that area since. Sixty 

Natural Resources Report No. 1H 


(74') of the "probable" observations oc- 
curred during 1968-71. Singles and pairs 
accounted for 9 Is of these reports over the 
entire period. 

During approximately 1,800 hours of 
flight by park biologists over all sections 
of the park since 1964, only one wolf-like 
canid has been seen. D. Houston and D. 
Stradley observed this dark animal in 
Hayden Valley in 1971, but poor light con- 
ditions precluded a positive identification. 

During 12 months I found only two sepa- 
rate sets of tracks and heard one series of 
howls which may have been wolf. All oc- 
curred on the Shoshone National Forest, 
Wyoming, within 20 km of each other and 
1-22 km east of the park boundary. Tracks 
measuring 11.3 cm (4.5 inches) long (in- 
cluding nails) by 9.6 cm (3.8 inches) wide 
with a 63-cm stride were found in sand near 
a stream on 7 September 1975. No evidence 
of human activity or domestic dogs was 
discovered anywhere in the general area. 
Tape-recorded wolf howls were broadcast the 
previous and following nights, but no re- 
sponses were heard. Two weeks later, one 
canid howled three separate times in re- 
sponse to a broadcast wolf howl. This oc- 
curred about 18 km from the site of the 
tracks. The animal was in dense timber 
and never was observed. No measurable 
tracks were found as the ground was hard 
and dry. The howls were not recorded, but 
I am confident the animal was not a coyote. 
Subsequently, 54 days were spent afield in 
this area (August-September 1976, April 
1977). Canid tracks, identical in measure- 
ment to the first set, were found 20 April 
1977 about 2 km from the site of the howls. 
Casts of these tracks arc in the park 
Museum Col lect ion. 

No wolves were photographed by time- 

lapse cameras monitoring the ungulate baits 
and/or canid scent during February-March 
1977, nor were any observed during 30 hours 
of flight. Unfortunately, winter conditions 
were very mild and many wildlife species 
remained scattered throughout the study 


Breeding and Denning Dates. The earliest 
positive birth date known for wolves in 
Yellowstone was 26 March (1916) when pups, 
judged less than 1 week old, were taken 
(Appendix II). Pups were removed from dens 
in March 1920 and 1921, but the exact date 
was not recorded. Skinner (1927) reported 
"three lots of pups which were born about 
March 1." Pups of unreported age were 
taken from other dens 1-8, 16, and 30 April, 
and 12 May. For wolves in the Bighorn 
Basin of north-central Wyoming, King (1965) 
related denning dates of 25 and 29 March 
and 19 April. Assuming a 63-day gestation 
(Brown 1936; Woolpy 1968), these dates indi- 
cate that Yellowstone wolves bred anytime 
from January until early March. This breed- 
ing season coincides with others reported 
from a similar latitude (Mech 1970:117). 

Litter Sizes. The size of 10 presumably 
complete wolf litters extracted from dens 
averaged 7.8 and ranged from 5 to 13 (Fig. 
9). Litters of 11 and 10 were found in 
1921 and 1922, respectively, following 
several years of persecution. Such Large 
litters seem characteristic of exploited 
wolf populations (Mech 1970). 

Dens. Bailey (1930) stated that wolf dens 
in Yellowstone were usually "situated in 
i or hollows among rocks or sometimes, 


National Park Service 








Number of Pups in Litter 

FIGURE 9. Histogram of litter sizes of wolves in Yellowstone Park, 1916-23. 

in large burrows on steep hillsides." He 
described a den near Hellroaring as com- 
posed of four or five large burrows dug 
into the open hillside "which, evidently, 
had been used for several years." When 
disturbed by humans, the adults moved the 
pups to another den in a natural cave about 
a mile (1.6 km) away (see Fig. 3). 

Certain physiographic features appear 
characteristic of these and other wolf den 
sites described in the literature (Mech 
1970:120-121; Stephenson 1974). Typically, 
dens are located on south or southwest 
aspects of moderately steep slopes in well- 
drained soils (or rock caves) , at eleva- 
tions 2-200 m above the surrounding area, 
and usually within 30-200 m of surface 
water. All the reported wolf dens in 
Yellowstone were located in the north 
central part of the park, from Blacktail 
Deer Plateau to Specimen Ridge (Fig. 10) . 

Rendezvous Sites. Murie (1944) used the 
term "rendezvous" for specific resting and 

gathering areas occupied by wolf packs dur- 
ing summer after the natal den has been 
abandoned. These are usually small, open 
meadows close to wooded cover and surface 
water (Joslin 1967; Carbyn 1974). In August 
1922, Park Ranger Anderson found an apparent 
rendezvous site of wolves in Yellowstone. 

This is a section of the park that is 
practically inaccessible due to bog 
holes, rim rock, down timber, and 
jack pines [sic]. The area is the 
part of the Mirror Plateau lying 
near the head of Timothy, Raven, 
Pelican, and Broad Creeks [Appendix II]. 

It is possible that this area had been used 
by wolves for rendezvous in previous years. 
Nowlin (1912) reported wolves howling at the 
head of Raven Creek on 25 July 1912. Bailey 
(1930) found tracks "especially numerous 
along Pelican and Raven Creeks where at 
least ten or a dozen wolves hunted in one 
pack in July and August, 1915." 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 


Pack Size 

Wolves characteristically live in packs 
of three or more individuals (Mech 1970) . 
Although a pack usually functions as an in- 
tact unit, members may split off temporar- 
ily at any season of the year (Murie 1944; 
Burkholder 1959; Jordan et al. 1967). Hence, 
cursory observations of wolves may under- 
estimate true pack size. 

Nonetheless, even rough estimates of 
pack size may provide insight if, as Rausch 
(1967) proposed, pack size reflects popula- 
tion density. Between 1902 and 1926, wolf 
packs of 3-16 members were reported for 9 
different years. Based upon the number of 
distinct dens occupied by wolves, three to 
four reproductive units were present in 
some years (1916-22) in the northeast. By 
contrast, between 1927 and 1977, there have 
been "probable" reports of three to five 
wolf- like canids together in only 8 years. 
It is doubtful if more than one group ex- 
isted in any one year. 

Seasonal Distribution and Movements 

Some wolves in Yellowstone apparently 
followed the ungulates in their altitudinal 
migrations to and from summer and winter 
ranges. Bailey (1930) reported that "during 
the summers of 1914 and 1915 they [wolves] 
. . . were following the elk herds to the 
high pastures of Mirror Plateau, returning 
with them in winter to the valleys along the 
Lamar and Yellowstone Rivers." The Super- 
intendent's Monthly Reports during 1918 

Towards the end of the month [May] 
the wolves seemed to leave the 
Specimen Ridge district and have 
not been much in evidence since. 
They were considerably in evidence 
in Slough and Hellroaring Creeks 
[November] . 

Although some wolves wintering in the Lamar 
and Yellowstone valleys moved toward Mirror 
Plateau and Pelican Valley during summer, 

FIGURE 10. Approximate location of wolf dens in Yellowstone Park, 1916-23. 


National Park Service 

others may have headed north out of the 

Food Habits 

Kills by wolves and scat contents sug- 
gest that elk were important prey both win- 
ter and summer for wolves in Yellowstone. 
Scout McBride found a cow elk killed on 21 
December 1914, between Mammoth and Black- 
tail Deer Creek. Between 16 October and 31 
January 1916, Scout Black discovered eight 
elk killed by wolves (Appendix II) . Skinner 
(1927) wrote that during the winter of 
1914-15, two or three wolf packs "harried" 
the elk on the lower valleys of the park. 
Bailey (1930) reported that wolf droppings 
in Pelican Valley collected during July 
1915 were made up entirely of elk hair. 
That same month he also discovered a young 
elk in Slough Creek which he believed had 
been killed by wolves. 

Studies of food habits of wolves in the 
Roc key Mountain National Parks of Canada 
(Cowan 1947; Carbyn 1974) and in Glacier 
National Park in Montana (Singer 1975) pro- 
vide an interesting comparison with Yellow- 
stone since similar species of prey inhabit 
these areas. Cowan (1947) reported that 
elk hair occurred in 49% of winter scats 
and 42% of summer ones. Mule deer hair 
was found in about 15% of scats collected 
at both seasons. Most wolf kills found 
by personnel were either elk (54%) or mule 
deer (23%). Cowan believed the actual 
kill of elk may have been higher because 
very few scats were collected in areas 
where wolves subsisted "almost exclusively 
on elk." Carbyn (1974) found elk hair in 
46% of 1,190 summer scats and 11% of 265 
winter scats. Mule deer hair was detected 
more often (66%) in the winter samples 

than in the summer (30%) . His study area 
contained more mule deer than other areas 
of Jasper Park where Cowan (1947) worked. 
In both Canadian studies, bighorn sheep 
and mountain goats (Oveomnos ameviaanus) 
were comparatively invulnerable to wolf 
predation. In Montana's Glacier Park, 
Singer (1975) reported eight white-tailed 
deer {Odoaoileus virginianus) , three moose, 
one elk, one beaver (Castor canadensis) , 
and five snowshoe hares (Lepus ameriaanus) 
killed by wolves. 

Elk were also important food for Yellow- 
stone wolves during the denning season in 
late March and April. On 26 March 1916, 
scouts Black and Stevenson found "a score 
or more of old elk skulls . . . and one 
fresh elk head" near a den in Hellroaring. 
A freshly killed young elk was discovered 
about 0.5 km from another den in the same 
area. Scraps of elk meat were in the den 
with the pups (Appendix II) . Considering 
the abundance of beaver between Hellroaring 
and Tower Falls around 1920 (Warren 1926) 
and the reported predilection of wolves 
for them (Voight et al. 1976), it seems 
likely they formed a portion of the wolves' 
diet, too. At two wolf dens in Jasper 
Park, Cowan (1947) found remains of 12 elk, 
2 mule deer, and 2 beaver. Carbyn (1974) 
reported occurrence of mule deer in 44% 
and elk in 32% of 312 scats collected at 
wolf dens. Later in summer at rendezvous 
sites, 55% of 270 scats contained elk, 
while 22% had mule deer. 

Data on the sex and age of ungulates 
killed by wolves in the Rockey Mountains 
are limited but suggest that calves or 
fawns and individuals 10 years and older 
may be most vulnerable. Of nine elk 
killed in Yellowstone and reported by 
scouts, six were adult cows, two were 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 


calves, and one was unidentified. No kills 
of adult bulls were recorded (Appendix II). 
In Jasper, Cowan (1947) classified 66 wolf- 
killed elk: very young- -20, mature- -29, 
and diseased-senile--17. Carbyn (1974) be- 
lieved that young individuals less than 3 
years old of all ungulates were most vulner- 
able to wolf predation. Individuals 3-9 
years old appeared relatively secure. 


Wolves inhabited the Yellowstone area in 
unknown densities when the park was estab- 
lished in 1872 but were subject to early ex- 
ploitation (1870s) and later control (1914- 
26) . A noticeable population increase 
about 1912 was met by intense year-round 
control, especially removal of pups from 
dens. Estimates of wolf numbers, based 
upon population stability via reproductive 
responses to removal of wolves 5 months and 
older (Rausch 1967; Kelsall 1968; sea Mech 
1970) , cannot be made from the Yellowstone 
data. Nonetheless, certain comments seem 
appropriate. Control records (Table 3) and 
the presence of up to four reproductive 
units (Appendix II) suggest postwhelping 
populations of 30-40 wolves around 1920, 
primarily in the northeast and southeast 
(Fig. 6). Of 103 wolves observed 1914-23, 
83% were in packs of 3 or more. What level 
the Yellowstone wolf population might have 
reached had control been minimal remains 
unknown . 

\tt ir wolf control ceased within the 
park in L926, very few wolves were reported. 
Whether these were remnant survivors or 
immigrants, or both, is unknown. Wolf 
numbers elsewhere in Wyoming and Montana 
were reduced drastically by this time, too. 
In Wyoming and South Dakota 508 wolves 

were killed 1918-23 by government personnel, 
with the last one taken in 1940 (G. Rost 
pers . comm . ) . In Montana , government agents 
removed 413 wolves during 1918-30 and their 
last one in 1945 (N. Miner pers. comm.). 
Yellowstone records do not indicate that any 
resident wolf packs persisted after the mid- 

Wolf -like canids have been sighted with- 
in the study area intermittently to the 
present, with an increase of "probable" 
reports 1968-71. Based upon geographical 
distribution of the sightings and some 
pelage differences, up to 10 of these canids 
may have occupied several separate areas 
around 1970. Observations reflect human 
distribution and variations in the visi- 
bility of animals as well as their actual 
seasonal ranges. Hence, it is difficult 
from these cursory reports to determine 
whether these canids were residents or 

The identity of wolf-like canids re- 
ported recently in Yellowstone Park has 
not been established and would require 
skeletal material. Interpretations include: 
(1) a remnant population of genetically 
pure wolves persisted through occasional, 
successful recruitment; (2) wolves in 
Canada and Montana immigrated periodically 
down to Yellowstone; (3) wolves were re- 
leased into the park; and (4) wolf- like 
canids occurred through hybridization of 
various kinds. 

The interpretation that a small popula- 
tion of pure wolves survived seems unten- 
able without more consistent evidence of 
pack activity during the intervening wars. 

Use of toxicants on surrounding public 
and private lands would have mule journeys 

dous for immigrating wolves. In 
Glacior National Park, black wolves, more 


nal Park Service 

prevalent in C. I. "columbianus" (Canadian) 
than in "irremotus , " comprised 32% of the 
wolf observations (Singer 1975) . Near 
Three Forks, Montana (100 km northwest of 
Yellowstone Park) , a wolf with a very large 
skull was killed in 1941, and both Goldman 
(1944) and Cowan (1947) believed it a 
Canadian emigrant. But in Yellowstone 
from 1966-77, 5% of canids sighted were 
black, suggesting that few Canadian wolves 
immigrated as far south as Yellowstone. 

Despite suggestions of sub rosa releases 
of wolves (Mech and Rausch 1975), park of- 
ficials have denied that any were ever 
transplanted to Yellowstone. Although I 
found no evidence to the contrary, this 
allegation has not been fully investigated. 
The possibility of a surreptitious release 
of captive wolves by private individuals 
cannot be totally discounted, but their 
chances for survival would seem slight. 

The prolonged geographical isolation of 
Yellowstone from wolf population centers 
suggests the remaining possibility-- 
hybridization. While reproductive isola- 
tion between species is usually maintained 
by geographic and ethological barriers, 
individuals on the periphery of their 
species' range may have trouble finding a 
conspecific mate. In the absence of ade- 
quate breeding stimuli, they may respond 
to inadequate signals and hybridize (Mayr 
1963). Recent evidence from several areas 
of North America suggests that coyotes 
may hybridize both with gray wolves 
(Kolenosky 1971; Mengel 1971; Kolenosky 
and Standfield 1975; Lawrence and Bossert 
1975; Hilton 1976) and red wolves (Canis 
rufus) (Paradiso and Nowak 1971; Riley 
and McBride 1972; Gipson et al. 1974; 
Elder and Hayden 1977) . Coyote-dog 
crosses are considered much less likely 

in Yellowstone due to its remoteness and 
the peculiar reproductive timing of such 
hybrids (Mengel 1971). 

Kolenosky (1971, 1977 pers. comm.) re- 
ported that F 1 offspring of an Ontario wolf 
(?■) and coyote {o") phenotypically resem- 
ble Eastern coyotes but with massive legs 
and large feet. He suspected that if they 
were sighted in the wild they would be 
identified as "normal" Eastern coyotes. 
However, in external appearance, one of the 
F 2 's is almost identical to an Algonquin- 
type wolf (see Kolenosky and Standfield 
1975), with larger head, legs, and feet 
than other progeny. Some wild canids in 
Ontario (Kolenosky and Standfield 1975) and 
Maine (Hilton 1977) appear to be mainly 
coyotes with some introgression of wolf 
genes. In Yellowstone we have no cranial 
material with which to trace such an incur- 
sion, if it ever occurred. Yet many re- 
ports describe animals phenotypically 
similar to the F 1 canids observed by 
Kolenosky. Some of the recorded track mea- 
surements (9-11 cm long x 7-9 cm wide) are 
between typical coyote and wolf in size. 

Whatever the identity of some large 
canids in Yellowstone, the sporadic nature 
of reports and the high incidence (89% of 
116 "probable" sightings) of singles and 
pairs over the past 50 years do not indi- 
cate a viable wolf population in the park. 


A stated purpose of the National Park 
Service is to "conserve, perpetuate, and 
portray as a composite whole the indige- 
nous . . . terrestrial fauna" (USDI 
National Park Service 1968) . A departure 
from natural conditions exists in Yellow- 
stone National Park because fewer pure 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 


wolves, if any, occur now than in the past. 
Control by humans- -both within and outside 
the park- -has brought the Yellowstone wolf 
to the edge of extinction. 

Two options are available for wolf man- 
agement in Yellowstone National Park: (1) 
do nothing; or (2) attempt to restore a 
viable wolf population by introduction. 
The former alternative has been employed 
since 1927 when wolf control ceased in the 
park. Over the next 50 years, a viable 
population has not reestablished, and the 
wolf niche appears essentially vacant. 
Therefore, I recommend restoring this na- 
tive predator by introducing wolves to 

In proposing a transplant, one must 
consider the suitability of source stock. 
The Department of the Interior originally 
placed C. I. irvemotus on the Endangered 
Species List. However, use of trinomens 
has been questioned for many animals 
(Wilson and Brown 1953; Brown and Wilson 
1954; Hagmeier 1958; Chapman and Morgan 

1973), including wolves (Mech 1974; R. M. 
Nowak pers. com.). Recent multivariate 
analyses of wolf skulls (Nowak 1973; 
Jolicoeur 1975; Skeel and Carbyn 1977) 
have shown few statistically significant 
differences between many subspecific group- 
ings made by Goldman (1944). Upon consid- 
eration of such factors, the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service has proposed (Federal 
Register, 9 June 1977:29527) deleting 
C. I. irremotus and listing the entire 
species (Canis lupus) as endangered 
throughout the 48 contiguous states (ex- 
cept Minnesota) . 

Perhaps a more important aspect of re- 
introduction is finding wolves that would 
have the best chance of adapting to the 
physiography and prey of Yellowstone. 
Wolves trom the mountains of British 
Columbia or Alberta would seem suitable, 
especially if gene flow from that direction 
has occurred. Wolves from Minnesota are 
another possible source. 

National Park Service 


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This study was funded by the National Park Service, 
National Audubon Society, Boone § Crockett Club, Wyoming 
Environmental Institute, N. J. Bellegie, M.D., and J. F. 
Turner through the NPS Cooperative Park Studies Unit, Utah 
State University, Logan, and the Environmental Research 
Institute, Moose, Wyoming. Drs. Thadis Box (USU) , Douglas 
Houston (NPS) , and Frank Craighead (ERI) assisted with 
administrative matters. Yellowstone Park personnel were 
very helpful and supportive, especially Douglas Houston, 
Mary Meagher, Glen Cole, Vicky Kurtz, Richard Knight, and 
the Ranger Division. Mary Meagher generously permitted 
use of her unpublished notes from archival material. All 
the material in the appendixes, except monthly and annual 
reports of the Superintendent and published references, 
were extracted by Dr. Meagher. The Gallatin and Shoshone 
National Forests provided logistical support. Kirk Knudsen, 
Jan Peterson, and Marguerite Deimel ably assisted in the 
field. Dave and Roger Stradley, Gallatin Flying Service, 
provided excellent flight service. Susan Sindt prepared 
the figures and Carol Snow drew the cover for this publication. 
Drs. I. M. Cowan, F. C. Craighead, Jr., D. B. Houston, F. F. 
Knowlton, and M. M. Meagher read the manuscript and made 
helpful suggestions. To each of you, my sincere gratitude. 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 25 


Summary of Wolf Reports Prior to 1914, Yellowstone National Park. 




Haines (195S) 

Haines (1965) 

Henderson (1870) 

Jones (1875) 

Supt. Annual 
Report (1877) 

Supt. Annual 
Report (1880) 

Supt. Annual 
Report (1881) 

Hague (1893) 

Hough (1894) 

Soda Butte 
Station Record 

Fountain Station 

Lake Station 

Fountain Station 



16 September 



6 August 






1 June 

3 June 

13 June 

29 June 


13 November 

19 November 


20 September 


1 November 

Trapper Osborn Russell heard a 
howl near the outlet of Yellow- 
stone Lake (could be either wolf 
or coyote. 

Howl heard at Cache Creek. 

Group (wolves) seen at junction 
of Cache Creek with Lamar River. 

Doleful howl of a large wolf — 
near Pelican Meadows. 

Ungulate carcasses poisoned with 
strychnine for wolves. 

Hides of wolves taken in late 
fall. The large ferocious gray 
or buffalo wolf, the sneaking, 
snarling coyote, and a species 
apparently between the two of 
a dark-brown or black color, 
were once exceedingly numerous 
in all portions of the Park, 
but the value of their hides 
and their easy slaughter with 
strychnine-poisoned carcasses 
of animals have nearly led to 
their extermination. 

Howl heard in Hayden Valley 

Wolf in Upper Geyser Basin. 

Billy Hofex saw wolves in 
Hayden Valley. 

Wolf seen near Slough Creek. 

Wolf seen near Slough Creek. 

One wolf seen on northeast side 
of Slough Creek just above 
Buffalo Creek. 

Three wolves seen on southwest 
side Slough Creek. 

Wolf tracks seen at Lower Geyser 

Wolf tracks seen at Bear Park. 

Six wolves seen between Lake and 
Mud Geyser. 

One wolf seen at Goose Lake. 


Appendix I 

Wolf Reports Prior to 1914 




Fountain Station 

3 November 


18 November 

Soda Butte 


Station Record 

21 April 

Sylvan Pass 


Station Record 

3 September 

4 September 

Upper Basin 


Station Record 

10 August 

Letter from W. B. 


Sheppard to 

Late August 

Col. L. M. Brett, 

dated 29 Jan. 1912 

Letter from 


Col. L. M. Brett 

29 July 

to Wm. J. Hornaday 

Nowlin (1912) 

Walworth (1971) 

Supt. Annual 
Report (1912) 

M. P. Skinner 

Randall (1966) 

25 July 




Spri ng 

Two wolves seen at north end of 
Mesa Road on the Gibbon River 

One wolf seen at 8-mile post 
between Fountain and Riverside. 

Two wolves between Fort Yellow- 
stone and Yancey's. 

Two wolves seen between Sylvan 
and Lake. 

One wolf seen between Lake and 


One wolf seen between Upper 
Basin and Excelsior. 

Gray wolves, of which latter 
I saw two, and considerable 
sign . . . 

McBride has been in the Park 
for many years, and is not 
convinced that there have ever 
been any gray wolves here. 
Statements have been made 
that they have been seen, but 
none have ever been killed or 
captured inside of the Park 
though several were killed on 
the Upper Gallatin River but 
a few miles outside in the 
state of Montana, last spring. 

Wolves howling at head of 
Raven Creek. 

Tracks of 3-4 wolves seen at 
Buffalo Ranch (Lamar) . 

It is claimed that gray wolves 
have been heard and that their 
tracks have been seen in the 
Park, but up to this time none 
have ever been killed, and there 
is no absolute proof that they 
exist within the limits of the 
reservation, though they have 
been taken not many miles out- 
side on the cattle ranges in 

In 1912, I saw four [wolves] 
near Lamar Valley. After that, 
signs of their presence increased 
and I believed they were coming 
in faster. 

Randall saw pack of nine (wolves) 
along Yellowstone River trail 
near Hellroaring Creek. 


National Park Service 


Summary of Wolf Reports 1914-26, Yellowstone National Park. 




James McBride 

Lake Station 

Skinner (1927) 

Letter of trans- 
mittal from F. T. 
Arnold, Captain 
12th Cavalry, to 
Sec. of Interior 

McBride (1914) 

Letter of trans- 
mittal from F. T. 
Arnold, Captain 
12th Calvary, to 
Sec. of Interior 

Supt. Annual 
Report (1914) 

Skinner (1927) 

Vernon Bailey 


29 January 


25 April 


7 September 


3 December 


21 December 


31 December 



1914 and 
1915, Summer 

Tracks of three wolves between 
Mammoth and 10 miles west. 

One wolf seen between Lake and 
Pelican Creek . 

. . . When I found an extra- 
ordinarily bold pack of eleven 
big fellows [wolves] in the 
Pelican Valley. 

Four wolves killed by Ranger 
Henry Anderson on Slough Creek. 
Wolves have become rather 
numerous along the north line 
of the Park during the past two 
or three years, and have been 
seen frequently, but this is 
the first instance where anyone 
has been able to capture them 
or get close enough to shoot 

One cow elk killed by wolves 
between Mammoth and Blacktail 
Deer Creek. 

Three more wolves have been 
killed in the Park during the 
month making a total of seven 
killed, and there are indications 
that they are present in con- 
siderable numbers and are 
destroying much game. 

Gray wolves have made their 
appearance in the Park in 
considerable numbers, having 
been seen traveling in packs of 
ten or less. While efforts have 
been made to kill them, thus far 
none have been taken inside of 
the Park although a few have 
been killed just outside, along 
the northern border . . . efforts 
will be made to kill them. 

That winter, two or three packs 
harried the elk on the lower, 
open valleys of the Park .... 
They began to increase about 
1914, soon numbered about 
sixty .... 

During the summers of 1914 and 
1915 they [wolves] . . . were 
following the elk herds to the 
high pastures of Mirror Plateau, 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 


Appendix II 

Wolf Reports 1914-26 




Vernon Bailey 
(1930) - Cont. 


Bailey (1930) 



returning with them in winter to 
the valleys along the Lamar and 
Yellowstone Rivers. In the 
summer of 1915, Mr. Frazier, at 
the Buffalo Ranch [Lamar], told 
me that wolves had been very 
troublesome during the preceed- 
ing winter and had killed many 
elk. During June of that year, 
Mr. Frazier killed two half- 
grown wolf pups and oaught two 
more, which were kept chained 
up at the ranch. During July 
and August, 1915, I found where 
a family of wolves had killed 
and eaten a young elk in Slough 
Creek Valley and found wolf 
tracks along Slough Creek and 
Lamar Valleys up to the mouth of 
Mist Creek, also along Pelican 
Creek, and later a few tracks 
on Fox Creek at the southern 
edge of the Park. Tracks were 
especially numerous alop.g 
Pelican and Raven Creek where 
at least ten or a dozen wolves 
hunted in one pack. 

On this same trip I found big 
wolves common, feeding their 
young on elk, and probably also 
on buffaloes , as they were right 
in the midst of the buffalo ranges. 
This probably accounted for the 
slow rate of increases of the 
herd, for after the wolves were 
trapped out of this section the 
following winter by Donald 
Stevenson, the herd began to 
make rapid increase. 

Donald Stevenson counted nine 
separate tracks, where a band of 
wolves had crossed a sandbar on 
Pelican Creek, but at that time 
they were leaving that section 
of the Park and following the elk 
herds to lower levels. 

On Pelican Creek, along the trails 
which they [wolves] were constantly 
using, their droppings were made 
up entirely of elk hair, and a 
scarcity of elk calves was very 
noticeable among the herds in 
that section. 

Appendix II 

Wolf Reports 1914-26 




Bailey, Letter 
to YNP Supt. 

Tower Station 

Cruse Black 

Donald Stevenson 






Supt. Annual 
Report (1915) 


13 August 


3 September 


10 October 

16 October 


19 October 


23 October 

24 October 

28 October 
30 October 


2 November 

3 November 


3 November 


22 November 


6 December 




6 January 

Band of apparently 8 or 10 large 
wolves ranging on the upper part 
of Pelican Creek .... There 
are also some wolves along Slough 
Creek and some old and young 
along Lamar River. There seem 
to be very few elk calves left 
where these wolves range. 

One wolf seen 9 miles east of 

One black wolf seen between 
Tower Falls and Buffalo Ranch 
(Lamar) . 

Two-year-old cow elk killed by 
wolves between Buffalo Ranch 
(Lamar) and west Lamar Canyon. 

One wolf track between Lake and 
Pelican Cabin. 

Trapped one female wolf (Rose 
Creek area) . 

One elk killed by wolves between 
Buffalo Ranch (Lamar) and Black- 

Killed one black female wolf up 
Slough Creek. 

Killed one black male wolf in 
Slough Creek. 

Tracks of nine wolves up 
Pelican Creek from cabin. 

A few wolf tracks seen in Pelican 
and Raven Creeks. 

One elk calf killed by wolves 
between Buffalo Creek and 
Specimen Ridge. 

One wolf track seen 5 miles down 
valley from Pelican Cabin. 

One cow elk killed by gray 

Gray wolves are increasing and 
have become a decided menace to 
the herds of elk, deer, mountain 
sheep, and antelope. Several 
were killed in the Park last 
winter, and an effort will be 
made the coming winter to capture 
or kill them. 

Saw three wolves in Geode Creek 
Canyon. Killed one. 

Natural Resources Report 


Appendix II 

Wolf Reports 1914-26 





Tower Station 



Bailey (1930) 

Tower Station 


Bai ley (1930) 


7 January 

17 January 

18 January 


18 January 


20 January 


31 January 



13 February 


14 February 

19-20 March 
22 March 
26 March 


26 March 

Tracks of three wolves between 
Tower and Buffalo Ranch (Lamar) . 

Wolf tracks on Specimen Ridge. 
One adult cow elk killed by 
wolves . 

Followed tracks of four wolves 
for 10 miles on Specimen Ridge 
and found one adult cow elk 
killed by them. 

One wolf seen between Tower and 
Slough Creek. 

Tracks of two wolves in the 
Blacktail area. 

One old cow elk killed by 
wolves . 

In January, 1916, they [wolves] 
were found in the Lamar and 
Yellowstone Valleys, where 
Stevenson and Black secured 
four of the old wolves and, 
later, a family of seven. 

Two wolves seen between Tower 
and lower Yellowstone River. 

Tracks of two wolves seen in 
Blacktail area. 

Wolf tracks between Blacktail 
Cabin and Hellroaring Cabin. 

Wolf tracks between Hellroaring 
and Buffalo Ranch (Lamar) . 

Hunted wolf dens. One wolf 
tracked to den near Hellroaring 
. . . female seen. 

One [den] found by Stevenson and 
Black on the rough slope near 
Hellroaring Creek on March 26, 
watched for some days in an 
effort to shoot the old wolves, 
which finally became suspicious 
and carried the pups away to 
another location farther up the 
side of the mountain. The den 
was described as composed of four 
or five large burrows dug into 
the open hillside and had 
evidently been used for several 
years as a score or more of old 
elk skulls were lying about, 
and one fresh elk head that had 
recently been brought in was 


National Park Service 

Appendix II 

Wolf Reports 1914-26 







Supt. Annual 
Report (1916) 


27 March 

28 March 
30 March 

14 April 

15 April 

16 April 


16 April 


19 April 

29 April 

30 April 
1 May 
5 May 
10 May 

12 May 

One wolf seen near Hellroaring. 

Two wolves howling near Hellroaring. 

One large white wolf seen near 

Dug out wolf den in the Hellroaring 
area but they had moved. 

Found wolf den. 

One wolf seen and six pups caught. 

On April 14 [sic], this family of 
wolves was located about a mile 
from the first den in a natural 
cave among some loose rocks. 
Back about eight feet from the 
entrance of the cave seven wolf 
pups estimated to be three weeks 
old were secured. A freshly killed 
young elk was found about a half 
mile from the den and there were 
pieces of elk meat in the den 
with the pups. The old wolves 
were very shy and kept well out 
of sight while the den was being 
watched but were frequently heard 
howling and answering each other 
from different points and the old 
male was several times seen guard- 
ing the den from a point high 
above. The male is consistently 
larger than the female , weighing 
well over a hundred pounds. 

Wolf tracks between Tower and 

Wolf den found near Hellroaring, 
and one old wolf shot. 

One pup dug out . 

Tracks near Hellroaring Creek. 

Tracks near Yancey's. 

Den found between Slough Creek 
Cabin and Hellroaring Cabin. 

Den found between Yancey's and the 
Buffalo Ranch (Lamar) . One wolf 
pup dug out . 

From October 6, 1916 to June 30, 
1916, two United States Biologi- 
cal Survey hunters killed 12 
wolves . . . skulls sent to the 
National Museum. Two young male 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 


Appendix II 

Wolf Reports 1914-26 




Supt. Annual 

Report (1916) - cont. 

Supt. Monthly 

Supt. Monthly 

Supt. Annual 
Report (1918) 

Supt. Monthly 

Supt. Annual 
Report ( L919) 
















wolves captured in the spring 
of 1915 by the employee at the 
buffalo farm [Lamar] were shipped 
alive on November 16 to the 
National Zoological Park. 

Wolves not numerous . . . two 
killed by lion hunter Elkins. 

Wolves reported in several 
different sections of the Park. 

Pack of about 16 wolves on 
Specimen Ridge. 

Signs of wolves on Specimen 

Nineteen wolves killed, with 
indications of many more on 
Specimen Ridge and Hellroaring. 

Seven wolves killed. Towards 
the end of the month the wolves 
seemed to leave the Specimen 
Ridge district and have not 
been much in evidence since. 

Four wolves killed. 

One large gray wolf killed. 

Sign of two wolves in the 
upper Yellowstone area reported 
by Biological Survey hunter 

One gray wolf trapped and shot. 

Three gray wolves killed. 

No wolves killed but they were 
considerably in evidence on 
Slough and Hellroaring Creeks. 

No wolves killed but sign found 
along north line. 

Thirty-six wolves killed in the 
park the year. 

No wolves killed, sign along 
north line. 

Two wolves killed. Signs indi- 
cate presence of several ranging 
from Mammoth to Soda Butte . . . 
efforts are being made to 
exterminate them. 

Reports received of wolves 

present . 

Six wolves killed in the 


National Park Service 

Appendix II 

Wolf Reports 1914-26 




Supt. Monthly 

Supt. Annual 
Report (1920) 

Supt. Monthly 

Supt . Annual 
Report (1922) 

Supt. Monthly 
















Three wolves, including two 
females, killed. 

Nine wolves killed . . . one in 
the northeast and eight (including 
seven pups) in Blacktail. 

At least 14 wolves killed . . . 
one adult in the northeast, 
eight pups in a den near Tower 
Falls, five pups in another den 
near Tower Falls, and one den 
with pups closed up solid on 
Blacktail Deer Creek. 

Pack of nine wolves and tracks 
seen near Tower Falls. 

Twenty-eight wolves killed by 
two rangers. 

Forty coyotes and wolves (not 
distinguished) killed. 

Two black wolves seen in Slough 
Creek and Specimen Ridge. 

Several wolf dens located and 
kept under surveillance. 

One den dug out and male 
(largest ever) and 11 pups 

One wolf killed by Anderson. 

One wolf killed, and many 
tracks seen in Mammoth and 
Blacktail Districts. 

A few wolves identified from 

Twenty-four wolves killed. 

One wolf killed during the 

Wolf dens located first week 
of April between Blacktail and 
Hellroaring, and adult female 
killed and 10 pups captured 
alive. Thirteen (sic) wolves 
taken to date. 

One wolf den discovered on 
Specimen Ridge, destroyed both 
adults and six pups. Felt that 
this was the pair ranging in 
Lamar Valley for several years 
--21 (sic) wolves killed to 
date. It is evident that the 
work of controlling these ani- 
mals must be vigorously 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 

J 5 

Appendix II 

Wolf Reports 1914-26 




Supt. Monthly 
Report - Cont. 




Supt. Monthly 

Supt. Annual 
Report (1923) 

Supt. Monthly 







prosecuted by the most effective 
means available whether or not 
this meets with the approval of 
certain game conservationists. 

Three wolves killed. 

Park Ranger Henry Anderson has 
been hunting out the summer 
haunts of park wolves and has 
succeeded in finding what he 
believes to be their main sum- 
mer range. This is in a section 
of the park that is practically 
inaccessible due to bog holes, 
rim rock, down timber and jack 
pines. The area is the part of 
the Mirror Plateau lying near 
the head of Timothy, Raven, 
Pelican and Broad Creeks. Ranger 
Anderson found numerous signs in 
this region and due to its 
inaccessibility and the fact 
that there is a large amount 
of game making its summer range 
near this point, there is no 
reason why the wolves should 
not find this area ideal summer 
home. Anderson will spend the 
remainder of the month in this 
locality in an attempt to ex- 
terminate as many of these preda- 
tory animals as possible. 

Two large wolves, one gray and 
one black, were killed by Henry- 
Anderson near confluence of 
Pelican and Raven Creeks (these 
are the two mounted specimens 
in the park museum) . 

Wolf den near Tower Falls cleared 
out; old female killed and five 
pups brought out alive to Mammoth 
for exhibition. 

Wolf signs have been seen near 
Soda Butte and on Pelican Creek. 

Eight wolves killed. 

Wolf seen near Bridger Lake on 
January 15 . . . .Wolf signs 
have been very rare this season. 

One wolf seen on Elephant Back 
near Lake; wolf sign near Mud 

Wolf signs have been very scarce 
throughout the entire season 


National Park Service 

Appendix II 

Wolf Reports 1914-26 




Supt. Monthly 
Report - Cont. 



Supt. Monthly 

Supt. Monthly 

Bailey (1930) 








and we have no report of any 
wolf kills in the park. 

Signs of wolf exceedingly 
scarce .... 

First wolf sign reported during 
past year observed near Soda 
Butte . . . also at about the 
same time at "Pelican Creek. 

There were no reported instances 
of wolf activity in the park 
last winter apart from an occa- 
sional lone track. None were 
actually seen in the park. The 
situation this fall gives promise 
of a recurrence of the wolf as 
we have two reports of recent 
date indicating their presence 
in the Park. Park Ranger Hall 
reports having seen three near 
Heart Lake and a wolf pack num- 
bering twelve are reported to 
have been seen at Elk Park by 
two members of a road crew on 
duty near that point. This last 
report has not been definitely 
confirmed and may be exaggerated. 

A number of wolf signs were ob- 
served in October but only one 
track has been reported for 

Two wolf signs seen on December 
16 on south slope of Saddle 

Three wolf signs were observed 
on the east shore of Yellow- 
stone Lake on the 20th. 

One wolf sign recently seen on 
Cabin Creek. 

There is believed to be a very 
limited number of wolves in the 

Sign of one, perhaps two. wolves 
along lower trail between Hell- 
roaring and Tower Falls. 

Tracks on Two Ocean Pass and one 
wolf seen on Trident Plateau by 
Sierra Club party. 

Natural Resources Report No. 14 



Summary of Wolf Reports, 1927-36, Yellowstone National Park. 

Si IlI'Cl' 



Supt. Monthly 

Supt. Monthly 

Supt. Monthly 

Supt. Monthly 


Supt. Monthly 











Wolf signs have been rarely seen 
in the Park this winter and we 
have every reason to consider 
that there are only a very few 
in the entire park area. 

It is doubtful if there are move 
than a very few wolves in the 
entire park area. 

Ranger Ogston reports signs of 
two wolves in the vicinity of 
the Slough Creek mailbox. 

Wolf signs have been rarely 

There have been no wolf sign 
reported this season. 

Wood crews at Yellowstone Lake 
reported seeing two gray wolves. 

A wolf has been reported working 
in the Tower Falls and Hellroaring 
districts. The tracks have been 
seen many times, and two elk 
calves have been found that were 
from all evidence, killed by 
this wolf. 

Four wolves seen up Tower Creek. 

Five wolves were seen and reported 
in the vicinity of Old Faithful. 
Several freshly killed elk car- 
casses found in this vicinity 
suggest that the animals seen 
were actually wolves instead of 


National Park Service